War, prevarication: what’s the difference between friends?

It seems as if every Italian I have met this week speaks better English than I speak Italian. A fair degree of respect for their language skills is therefore due to them.

What is surprising, however, is just how bad many of the printed English translations I have come across are. It’s no surprise that if a restaurant translates its own work we get such gems as “English soup ice cream” or “Angry pasta”.  (I wimped out; I had the pizza of unknown bellicosity.) But also translations which I would have expected to have had some care put into them, such as the display panels in the Leonardo da Vinci exhibition I visited.

Attempting to explain how the Italian states were regularly at war with each other, their fighting providing the backdrop which encouraged da Vinci to come up with inventions such as his 8-man tank as each state tried to defeat the other, the English-version of the panel gave this:

Ah well, they say jaw jaw is better than war war.

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